Linebacker Manti Te’o was one of the best players on one the country’s best defenses this past season, and he was certainly one of they key cogs in Notre Dame’s undefeated regular season and appearance in the BCS National Championship game. But a lot of that positive buzz went away with Alabama‘s domination of the Fighting Irish, and Te’o’s poor performance in particular stood out as the Crimson Tide put up 42 points with 529 yards of offense, including 265 yards on the ground.
Te’o was thought of as a potential top-five overall pick for much of the season, but more recent projections have slotted him a little further down the first round. That seems more realistic, as linebackers without gaudy sack totals rarely go in the top-10 overall even if they are highly touted.
The Minnesota Vikings have some uncertainty in their linebacking corp for the 2013 season, with only Chad Greenway currently under contract among the team’s 2012 starters. Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson will both be unrestricted free agents and could return, but in any case the Vikings have a need for players with upside at the position.
So could Te’o be an option for Minnesota with their first round pick, currently slated to be 23rd overall, in April? Let’s take a closer look at him.
Weight: 255 lbs.
– Has excellent lateral agility and covers a lot of ground quickly
– Exhibits good football IQ; rarely blows his assignment
– Trusts what he sees; reacts and attacks quickly
– Is an intense competitor
– Was productive as both a tackler (three 100-plus tackle seasons) and pass defender (seven interceptions as a senior) during his collegiate career
– Is a high-character player and should transition well to being a team leader at the next level
– Needs to get stronger at the point of attack
– Occasionally takes bad angles in space
– Struggles to finish consistently once he gets his hands on the ballcarrier
– Has questions about his speed in pass coverage
Te’o will be one of the most discussed and scrutinized NFL Draft prospects at any position over the next few months, and the most recent memory scouts will have of him is a bad game against NFL-caliber players. Some projections still have him going in the top-10 overall, as high as eighth to the Buffalo Bills, but it may not take much for him to fall down draft boards. Te’o will need to put together a strong showing at the NFL Combine and in private workouts for teams, and the Vikings should be among the teams most interested in him.
I think Te’o would be an excellent fit for the Vikings, since his overall skill set would make him an effective player in their base Cover-2 defense. He would most certainly stay on the field when they move to nickel and dime packages as well, which could allow him to move around the defensive formation some and showcase his best attributes. If one bad game at the end of his college career is enough for Te’o to fall to the Vikings in the first round, they could get a steal here.